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Shipowners’ decarbonisation nightmare may become reality

A lack of lobbying opportunity with cancelled IMO meetings could lead to a nightmare situation for ship operators as an already tight IMO decarbonisation timeline gets stretched

Delays in the discussion about short-term measures that could and should be imposed on international shipping could lead to a nightmare situation for shipowners. As a response to the COVD-19 related lockdowns and restrictions in the UK and across the globe, the International Maritime Organization has been forced to postpone or cancel all its regular committee meetings in its London headquarters.
This has put into jeopardy a tight schedule the marine environment protection committee had been set to finalise what are known as short term measures that could be applied to existing ships as part of the industry’s road to decarbonisation. However with a key MEPC meeting earlier this year postponed and other work still under threat, agreement on how to implement technical measures to meet a 2023 deadline look tight.
MEPC meets three times over a two-year period, alternating between one and two meetings per year. It should be meeting twice in 2020. The IMO Council is attempting to meet remotely through correspondence and through virtual events to attempt to find a way to push ahead with the Organization’s workload.
Having missed the chance to move the industry discussions forward in spring this year when MEPC should have met, industry is now waiting to see how the IMO will reschedule or develop new meeting solutions, knowing that a second MEPC in the autumn is also under threat.
Some critics have begun to question of the IMO should continue to have physical committee meetings like it does in London considering the expense and carbon footprint of such meetings, and the success being shown in remote meetings around the world.
Meanwhile one industry spokesperson who attends IMO committee meetings regularly laments the inability to talk and persuade people in the hallways of the IMO, outside the official committee meeting room.

Nightmare

But with two meetings of MEPC set to be disrupted the 2023 goal looks even more difficult than it already was. While answering questions at a DNV GL webinar on shipping decarbonisation, Jan Olaf Probst, business director said this could lead to a nightmare situation because the IMO is already under scrutiny due to slow progress, especially by Brussels.
“From a shipowner point of view, I would call this a nightmare, because if this happens then we have seen…..that the EU will come up with strict regulations, and other areas (Asia) will come up some, and this will not be an in-line view.”
This he said will make any planning by owners difficult, especially knowing that some cargo owners also have requirements, some of them tougher than those being proposed and set to be discussed within the IMO MEPC.
“So from the shipper point of view the IMO needs to speed up,” he said. “Any delays will make it more complicated than it is at present”
MEPC representatives have both short-term measures and more medium-term measures to tackle. The short-term measures are focused on cutting fuel consumption on existing vessels, which are all on hydrocarbon fuels, using various measures.

Your choice or not

Short term measures are expected to enter force in 2022 according to Eirik Nyhus, DNV GLs director of environment.
One is the EEXI – the Energy Efficiency Existing Ships Index, which would be a single mandatory design improvement of a ship in the same way that the EEDI has been brought into the industry for newbuildings. Being a ship type specific benchmark and index system the rationale would be to leave it to ship operators and owners to decide how they would achieve the required target. The mostly likely would be using lower power ratings to emit less due to slower speeds. The other potential short-term measure proposal would be to utilise the SEEMP,- Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan -which was agreed and came into force in 2011 at the same time as the EEDI.
An enhanced SEEMP would not be one off adjustment of the ship, but be compliant to a carbon intensity indicator such as the EEOI (which having been agreed on in 2011 has been widely unused as an active regulatory tool.
Having missed the chance to move the industry discussions forward in spring this year when MEPC should have met, industry is now waiting to see how the IMO will reschedule or develop new meeting solutions, knowing that a second MEPC in the autumn is also under threat.

About Author

Craig Eason Stockholm
Craig Eason is the owner and editorial director of Fathom.World. He has a background in the shipping industry having started his career as a cadet on oil tankers and gas carriers before becoming a navigating officer on a range of vessel types. A change in career, with ensuing university studies, and he has now gained 20 years experience in written and broadcast journalism. He now is in demand as a knowledgeable and competent editor and event host and moderator, both for in-house events and ones for the public.

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